Journaltalk - Most Active Discussions

Most Active Discussions

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  1. Economic Enlightenment in Relation to College-going, Ideology, and Other Variables: A Zogby Survey of Americans

    • It would appear that assessments of economic awareness (enlightenment, literacy, understanding – the noun is critical) is a growing industry including, of course, the analysis of estimated awareness in terms of the respondents’ socioeconomic indicators (income, education, political affiliation, etc.). One might hope, over time, to see some intelligent “standardization” of questions, methodology, etc. in what absolutely should be at least an annual exercise.

      Toward this hoped-for standardization (not meaning necessarily any single standard), this study is positively groundbreaking. I am so impressed with its methodology that I hope at least one of the standards evolves from it.

      This is not to say that what I’ll call the Year One version of the study was perfect. The article notes a shortcoming that I would regard as the greatest one I can think of: the lack of propositions chosen or worded so as to challenge respondents of a conservative/libertarian bent. For example: “By raising drug prices, government intervention in distribution of illicit drugs reduces their use.” Enlightened answer is “Yes,” but government intervention challenges libertarians’ beliefs (and favors conservative ones). The eight questions in the survey did not have any questions like this, as the article noted.

      The indictments of the American academy on the score of promoting (or frustrating) economic literacy are among the most-valuable products of this inquiry, and its conclusions along this line provide by far the most-attractive object for attention by college students, their parents, professors, and college administrators.

      The distortion and dismissal of economics as a study essential to the material and spiritual welbeing of mankind may be the most vital element on the cultural/didactic agenda of this century.

    • 6 comments
    • First comment 10 Jun 2010 by N. Joseph Potts
    • Last comment 16 Nov 2015 by wargames83
  2. Adam Smith, the Last of the Former Virtue Ethicists

    • To judge McCloskey’s paper in terms of Smithian virtue, I think that she ought to be praised for bringing uncommon judgment and insight to the analysis of Smith’s mission as a moral philosopher, and vision as a social scientist. The goal of rescuing Smith from the purely economic and modern point of view is worthy and relevant still today. Her recognition of his shared perspective with the virtue ethicists of ancient and medieval times and her argument that he can only be understood through this prism are valuable and largely correct.

      However, I believe McCloskey falls somewhat short of the ideal in terms of her argument simply because the comparison cannot be stretched as far as she seems to hope. If Adam Smith was a virtue ethicist, he was a virtue ethicist of a very different kind than his ancient or medieval predecessors. And though there are important differences between Aristotle and Aquinas, it is clear that in significant ways, these two are closer to each other than either is to Smith.

      An important division between Smith and his predecessors is the way he sees virtue cultivated. For Aristotle and Aquinas, we discover virtue by examining man’s end, or ultimate purpose, and then by discovering the types of habits which will lead to the fulfillment of that end. Though these habits may be similar in kind to Smithian virtues, they are approached by way of reason rather than observation. Smith, in contrast, has very little to say about the content of man’s nature, other than that we are inclined (perhaps in universal agreement) to praise some actions and blame others. Smith seems to remain agnostic about whether this is an end in the mode of Aristotle, or merely a consequence of natural forces.

      Smith’s departure from Aristotle, and his adoption of enlightenment epistemology, makes McCloskey’s argument slightly misleading. And this does become especially apparent, as the previous comments have pointed out, when she attempts to make a place for hope and faith in Smith’s enlightenment virtue system. Here I agree with Steve Kunath that McCloskey is mistaken in her appeal to Aquinas. For to Aquinas, faith and hope are very specific theological virtues, both forward looking, and both connected specifically with man’s end in an exclusively Christian sense. They are not the secular-friendly virtues McCloskey would make them.

      And it is only in this very theological sense that faith and hope can exist as “primary colors,” as McCloskey defines Smith’s five essential virtues. Brian Bedient is right is to classify McCloskey’s versions of faith and hope as secondary virtues. The hope for a better future that Smith envisions is substantially different from Aquinas’ hope for the mercy of God. While I think Smith does indeed have every intention of recommending virtuous existence (rather than merely providing a descriptive account of human action), I believe that faith and hope as they existed in earlier virtue ethics have no place in his work. The faith and hope which appear in McCloskey’s article are of an entirely different kind, and do not need to be added to Smith’s list of primary virtues.

    • 6 comments
    • First comment 22 Sep 2010 by Steve Kunath
    • Last comment 14 Nov 2012 by Todd Peckarsky
  3. Mankiw vs. DeLong and Krugman on the CEA’s Real GDP Forecasts in Early 2009: What Might a Time Series Econometrician Have Said?

    • Oh, please, please, please give us a link to where Paul Krugman said the 2009 stimulus was going to lead to “strong growth”.

      (And if you are unable to, does that mean you are, as Krugman contends, making it up?

    • 5 comments
    • First comment 23 Sep 2012 by Brooks
    • Last comment 24 Sep 2012 by Alex Nash
  4. Religion, Heuristics, and Intergenerational Risk Management

    • I found this to be a stimulating and useful article. However I find two major shortcomings. Firstly it could provide more substance to illustrate various religious taboos. Secondly it could examine beyond hard religion and look at social taboos/ tabus as projected by groups less formally spiritually aligned.
      I am partial to the perspective shared by Harari in his recent book “Sapiens” (and before that by others) that like most human concepts and beliefs, religions are simply self-serving myths that either evolved or were constructed for various reasons – control and power, security, resilience, etc. Most of the mainstream, monotheistic religions – which the authors focus most closely on – arose out of various distillations of incorporated belief systems. For instance the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Islam and Christianity incorporated various beliefs and myths from other sources, as reflected by various branches of those religions. For instance Catholics consume fish on Fridays but Protestants are less likely to. Alligator is considered a fish by New Orleans Catholics, reflecting one of many local belief systems. These various belief systems are largely reflected by the various sects of the Abrahamic (and other) religions.

      What is interesting for me, as a scholar of food, agriculture and diet, are the prohibitions, which can also be expressed as taboos in other non-Abrahamic cultural / spiritual beliefs, on consumption of various varieties of food, or the mixing of various foods.

      This is particularly strong in the Jewish Kosher tradition, around shellfish, mixing of milk products with meats, consumption of pork and so on.

      This prohibition is echoed in the Islamic fatwa against the consumption of pork as haraam (forbidden). If we consider why these particular foodstuffs have been forbidden, we can propose that there are good reasons for doing so. Pigs have long been considered dirty, although this is largely a condition of their domestication and scavenging nature. Imagine also, in the Middle East, pork would have been more likely to spoil, given the associated pathogens from its living in close association with humans, exacerbated by the hot climate.

      Further, as scavengers pigs are prone to infection by various helminths (worms) such as tapeworm and roundworm, which are readily passed onto those who consume their meat, weakening and often killing people if not treated.

      It is also interesting to consider the fact that pork, is said to be closest to human flesh (in Polynesia humans were called “long pig”) when cooked and consumed, so a further, obvious reason for taboo can be postulated.

      Considering shellfish, why would these be forbidden? Look no further than dinoflagellate toxins (caused by so called red tides, a fairly common global event) that can cause paralysis and death – and are impossible to detect without modern laboratory equipment. Shellfish are also readily prone to spoilage if not kept properly without refrigeration. Crustacea such as crayfish, lobster and prawns are bottom feeders, literally and scientifically, consuming detritus at the bottom of the food chain. Crayfish and lobster, for instance are noted to congregate around sewer outfalls and are also prone to rapid spoilage.

      Cholera outbreaks are associated with the consumption of raw shellfish, particularly in Peru, Chile and Ecuador (ceviche, etc.) where this is a common practice. So again, using religion to reinforce this absolute interdict, followers are protected and are more likely to survive than those who do not follow that religious belief. This provides an evolutionary as well as an economic advantage. Because the population will be less prone to infections, plagues or parasites, it is less likely to be unwell and able to be economically productive and to be able to contribute to the community, the church, the faith, etc. Therefore an evolutionary advantage emerges from such an interdict, providing increased resilience or a tendency to reinforce antifragility in individuals, in communities and in religions, benefiting all who subscribe to these interdicts. So while the religion may be based on a myth, the related interdicts and taboos reinforce the power of those who have logically and experientially curated and evolved the heuristics to improve on the lot of those who follow these shared belief systems. Those on the margins or those cast out or rejecting such systems would become prone to genetic and economic erosion and extinction.

      I thought I would share these considerations with the authors as I believe they provide some useful practical examples of application of the sort of heuristics, expressed as a religious taboo or interdict, able to confer practical and real social advantages. Given the nature of this forum I don’t really want to go much further beside say that these examples can be extended to other foods, seeds, poison fruits, mixing of dairy and other foods, ways of food storage and treatment, etc. that have bearing on the how risk and religion are managed and analysed.

    • 5 comments
    • First comment 30 May 2014 by Tom Garnett
    • Last comment 15 Aug 2015 by G. Ashton
  5. Advanced Placement Economics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    • This is a great article as the others have said. This study needs far greater exposure to provide greater diversity in economic thinking. There is far more to economics than Keynesianism and the mechanics. Thank you.

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 25 Jan 2011 by Paul Johnson
    • Last comment 16 Mar 2011 by David B
  6. The Ideological Profile of Harvard University Press: Categorizing 494 Books Published 2000-2010

    • The percentages in Table 1 are difficult to interpret. There are no 100% totals in this table so we can’t tell if the cell percentages are column percentages or row percentages. With effort, one can determine that all the percentages — except those in the bottom row — are column percentages. Putting 100% totals at the bottom of each column would facilitate understanding. , Showing the prevalence of each subject area could be done in the column titles, in the body or in a separate row below the 100% column totals.
      Figure 1 would have been more useful if the percentages were of “All Ideological HUP Books Surveyed” so the percentages would add to 100%.

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 24 Jan 2011 by Hal Luft
    • Last comment 16 Feb 2011 by Milo Schield
  7. The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns

    • Constant’s speech flows effortlessly, enumerating the distinctions between ancient and modern conceptions of liberty. Ancient liberty “consisted in exercising collectively, but not directly, several parts of the sovereignty” and “with this collective freedom [came] the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community” (66). Under ancient liberty, “[a]ll private actions were submitted to a severe surveillance” and “[n]o importance was given to individual independence” (66). Modern liberty exists in a system of representative government, rather than direct participation. Modern liberty is “the right to be subjected only to the laws” (66). Constant summaries the key distinction nicely: “[A]mong the ancients the individual, almost always sovereign in public affairs, was a slave in all his private relations” (67). “Among the moderns, on the contrary, the individual, independent in his private life, is, even in the freest of states, sovereign only in appearance” (67). A paradox seems to emerge with respect to ancient and modern liberty. While we want modern liberty, it is still necessary to keep ancient liberty in the background. “The danger of modern liberty is that, absorbed in the enjoyment of our private independence, and in the pursuit of our particular interests, we should surrender our right to share in political power too easily” (70). Constant warns against putting too much faith in authority figures. He pleads that “we must not leave it to them. No matter how touching such a tender commitment may be, let us ask the authorities to keep within their limits. Let them confine themselves to being just. We shall assume the responsibility of being happy for ourselves” (70). It seems that the dangers of modern liberty are very real and present today. Individuals often look for the government to be more than just. The government is regulating personal happiness through various policies that go against liberty. It’s a slippery slope and Constant would call for us to take responsibility.

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 15 Apr 2011 by Ariel Nerbovig
    • Last comment 06 May 2011 by Stephanie Myla Helmick
  8. Entrepreneurship and Islam: An Overview

    • Say, you need 100% of underlying good for Islamic finance. What about 90%? 80%? How low do reserves go before it breaks Shari’ah law? Does the first dollar lent out of monetary deposits rather than lent on the back of real world collateral render the financial institution as counter to Shari’ah?

    • 4 comments
    • First comment 31 May 2014 by Eric Rasmusen
    • Last comment 03 Jun 2014 by Nathan W
  9. Preference Falsification in the Economics Profession

    • While I agree with the overall point that Davis presents in the paper—that of preference falsification existing within the economics profession, I’m really wondering if the division into scholastic and public-discourse sections is nothing more than a division of labor, and as such should not be “changed” by the lay person. Granted, I’m not spending much time reading articles out of the top journals, because I honestly couldn’t understand the math anyway, but it seems likely that those articles get published, hopefully separating at least somewhat the wheat from the chaff, then some professor or researcher with good scholastic and nominal communication skills writes to other professors who have less scholastic and better communication skills, and then the Russ Roberts’ of the world apply the relevant research to public topics. If that flow of information could be possible, then the part that is self-referential, -validating, and -perpetuating is only the original publishing tier, while the professor/communicator levels are more and more responsive to the lay person’s choice (if it really is the lay person that should be choosing what is discussed, but that’s another question). It is probably always going to be true that the best researchers will not be the best communicators, though Davis’ paper seems to imply that the two orientations of the economics profession should be inhabited by the same person. While that sort of super-human-ness certainly is nice, it seems rare that one would be able to skillfully perform both roles, and so a revolution toward such a system would be attended by very few people.

      Now, one could say that a piece of work may become “less relevant” (and I think that is one of the main points here, that the profession/top journals are becoming less relevant) because it becomes less understandable to others, or because it becomes full of information that is not true. My ‘division of labor’ notion is based on the understanding that when Davis says on p. 363 “economic science has not improved its explanatory capacity of the last several years” and reports comments from survey-takers on p. 364 that the profession “fails to explain observable events,” “gain[s] an elegance of sorts but at the expense of relevance,” he is saying something about how more and more, in the top journals, there is high-theory/math-heavy work that is not understandable to the intelligent layperson (or the masters student). “People want to understand the economy, but we are not helping them.” That is; the top journals are not helping them. I think that that is a fine situation. If there is anything to be gained by model-production and heavy statistical analysis, then better mathematicians and scientists can produce those results, and other people can do a better job than they can in transmitting the results.

      If Davis and his respondents are stressing that not only has the top-tier journal become more incomprehensible, but more full of false or inconsequential information, and the preference falsification is supporting this propagation of nonsense, then obviously a view of the profession as division of labor would fall short, as the input stage is being fed by garbage. Davis doesn’t quite make clear whether the “less relevance” of the scholastic tradition is producing true and potentially useful data that is incomprehensible, or false and irrelevant data.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 21 Apr 2010 by Jon Goldstein
    • Last comment 22 Apr 2010 by Shawn Reed
  10. A Life among the Econ, Particularly at UCLA

    • As a student during this period (PhD 1972) I was extremely fortunate to have been taught by these professors. Well remembered is the BSU bomb incident at the department as well as tenured faculty guarding halls against crazies disrupting classes. Learning to reason as an economist was paramount. On one qualifying exam, I felt one question assumed away the problem and rather than give an answer I pointed out the error. This risky strategy was well received. Alchian was on my dissertation committee but was slow to read the work. Knowing his keen interest in market transactions and since i was facing a deadline for a fellowship stipend, I made him a non serious offer. If he would just read it, I would split any stipend with him. This was not asking for an approval, just a reading. Obviously he would never accept any money, but as i knew he would, the market spirit of the offer was appreciated. During meetings of my nonacademic career, my annoying market based queries would often elicit the query “Where did you come from?”. I now know that the answer should have been “The Golden Age of Alchian’s UCLA Economics Department”.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 08 Sep 2010 by morrie goldman
    • Last comment 17 May 2011 by josil
  11. Individualism: True and False

    • Hayek does well to remind people of the true definition of individualism in his opening chapter. Many assume the common meaning of terms and concepts such as “individualism” without evaluating the meaning of the term or concept as it was used in a past age. However, Hayek does not seem to dive deep into the Bible to understand its methods or how they were supposed to work. He assumes that history has proven that biblical methods of economics do not work. He does acknowledge the usefulness of biblical principles, but does not see biblical methods as legitimate. Maybe the reason biblical methods have not worked is because governments and nations refuse to implement certain practices? Hayek does not take time to wonder what would happen if a Year of Jubilee was practiced. Finally, Hayek does not address biblical assumptions about man and how he works either. Men’s hearts are corrupt according to the Bible. Hence, greed and usury is prevalent. Hayek does a wonderful job of defining individualism, but makes too many assumptions about how the Bible should be used in regards to an economic system.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 22 Sep 2010 by Tony Quain
    • Last comment 10 May 2013 by Matt
  12. "The Two Faces of Adam Smith"

    • Vernon Smith seeks to solve the Adam Smith problem and reconcile what seem to be two inconsistent views of human nature in Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In Wealth of Nations, Smith’s invisible hand theorem proposes that it is not from benevolence, but rather “the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another” which drives our behavior (1776; 1909: 19-20). In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith declares that there are “some principles in… [human] nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it” (1759; 1976: 9). Vernon Smith asserts that these two views are consistent if we recognize a “universal propensity for social exchange” (3). He proposes the following behavioral axiom: ““the propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another,” where the objects of trade I will interpret to include not only goods, but also gifts, assistance, and favors out of sympathy, that is, “generosity, humanity, kindness, compassion, mutual friendship and esteem” (Smith 1759; 1976, p. 38)” (3). Vernon Smith then proceeds through historical, psychological, and experimental evidence to support this theory. Vernon Smith offers a very convincing and creative solution to the supposed Adam Smith problem. He makes crucial distinctions between reciprocated and non-reciprocated exchange. However, Vernon Smith seems to neglect the importance of non-reciprocated ethical behavior in Adam Smith’s work. Hanley (2010) elaborates on the distinctions between Adam Smith and Vernon Smith. He also points to divergences in opinion on intended beneficence and social vs. unsocial behavior. Vernon Smith asserts that Adam Smith’s explanation of beneficence is “utilitarian” and argues that it arises “from the expectation of reciprocal benefits” (17). This egoistic view of man may not fit neatly into Adam Smith’s conception which encompasses broader views on ethics and virtue.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 25 Apr 2011 by Echo Keif
    • Last comment 06 May 2011 by Steve Kunath
  13. Economic Enlightenment Revisited: New Results Again Find Little Relationship Between Education and Economic Enlightenment but Vitiate Prior Evidence of the Left Being Worse

    • People believing firmly in free market and voluntary exchange efficiency (just missed some fluctuations in Q.16 and negative externalities in Q17) are wrong and “Unenlightened”.
      People believing after USSR economy TOTAL failure and China transition to market economy that voluntary transactions are inefficient and only Gosplan could succeed to organize it are right and enlightened? Are you sure Q16-17 really helpful?
      BTW, conservatives actually able to count negative externalities.
      Q14: say Farmer A hired 5 immigrants from the country w/o tradition to respect property and human life, dignity etc. Let Farmer A saved for a Seazon $100K his costs (taxation, salary) and shared part of $100K among his product consumers. So, public wealth increased $100K. OK, now, close to the end of the Seazon (game almost over, last move of the gamer could be very unpleasant) this immigrant workers grabbed and killed farmer B and raped farmers’ C daughter and escaped to Mexico.
      Public losses counted say $5 million at least. So, conservatives actually count negative externalities, some libertarians so stubbornly ignore (Caplan vs. Friedman):
      http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2008/06/milton_friedman_10.html

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 17 May 2011 by rihir akidan
    • Last comment 28 Apr 2012 by Moshe
  14. The Invisible Hand of Jupiter

    • I hope to add to, and hopefully not just echo, what Erik has already pointed out.

      It would seem that Smith’s use of the “invisible hand” allegory in both The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations is used to illustrate the edict of nature and society that direct economic activity. Whereas, in the History of Astronomy the “invisible hand” is used to explain the unexplainable— the events that are beyond the natural laws of the secular world. On the surface, the “invisible hand” reference takes on a slightly different connotation in the three Smith pieces mention above. In The Wealth of Nations it can be interpreted as the natural laws that manage markets and society; in The Theory of Moral Sentiments it can be seen as a divine set of universal rules directing a just and virtuous society; and, in the History of Astronomy it can take on the role of a divine authority overriding these rules and laws. I believe, as I deem Erik does, that the latter use of the “invisible hand” also shows up in The Theory of Moral Sentiments and The Wealth of Nations. Consider the following few lines from The Theory of Moral Sentiments: “The rich…only consume little more than the poor, and in spite of their natural selfishness and rapacity, though they mean only their own conveniency, though the sole end which they propose from the labours of all the thousands whom they employ, be the gratification of their own vain and insatiable desires, they divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life…had the earth been divided into equal portions among all its inhabitants…”. Although “selfishness and rapacity” would seem to be characteristics that would not direct society in the way of justice or virtues, the industrious individual’s “natural” penchant to serve his own interest ultimately benefits society—the mean may not appear agreeable, but the end is. Is this “natural” penchant toward “selfishness and rapacity” not assumed to be put in place by a precocious, divine authority? It certainly can be interpreted that way. If we except that the “invisible hand” is the work of a higher authority, who has directed the butcher and the brewer to act in their own self interest, and who has provided society with nature ethics and virtues to govern themselves, and who makes it “lightening” and “thunder”, then the metaphor is consistent in all three of Smith’s works referenced above. Since this heavenly intention or intervention is not observable, Smith does not bother with a speculative explanation, simply calling it the “invisible hand”.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 15 Oct 2011 by Pavel Kuchař
    • Last comment 15 Nov 2012 by Francis Conlon
  15. Can ‘Religion’ Enrich ‘Economics’?

    • I do not share Eric’s confidence in perfectly and justly adminsitered providence.

      If we want things to be better on earth, I do not think we should wait for providence. We may have to wait for a very long time, and poor, starving and vulnerable populations worldwide need out compassion and support today, not whenever providence thinks it is time to do it.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 May 2014 by Eric Rasmusen
    • Last comment 10 Jun 2014 by Nathan W
  16. Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data

    • In his 2002 book, Calculated Risks, Gerd Gigerenzer addresses the muddy headed thinking that results from innumeracy and illustrates with telling anecdotes. This (p. 210) is one of my favorites:

      In the late 1970s, the Mexican government faced the problem of how to increase the capacity of the Viaducto, a four-lane motorway. Rather than building a new highway or extending the existing one, the government implemented a clever, inexpensive solution: It had the lines on the four-lane highway repainted to make it six-lanes wide. Increasing the number of lanes from four to six meant a 50 percent increase in capacity. Unfortunately, the much narrower lanes also resulted in an increase in traffic fatalities, which, after a year, forced the government to turn the highway back into a four-lane road. Reducing the number of lanes from six to four mean a 33 percent decrease in capacity. In an effort at touting its progress in improving the country’s infrastructure, the government subtracted the decrease from the increase and reported that its actions had increased the capacity of the road by 17 percent.

      As amusing as it is to chuckle over the transparent flimflammery of the Mexican government, it is considerably more distressing to see one’s fellow economists taken in by the same fallacy. This is precisely what is happening in John Humphreys’ recent publication in Econ Journal Watch, “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data.” Suppose for the sake of illustration that male college graduates earn $4000 a year in Cambodia, high school graduates earn $2000 a year, and someone entirely uneducated earns $1000 a year. These numbers, it should be clear, are picked for ease of exposition, not for accuracy. Using the usual formula for percentage changes, one would say that university graduates earn 100% more than high school graduates ((400-200)/200 = 1). It would be fallacious to say that college graduates earn 300% ((400-100)/100 =3) more than the uneducated, and high school graduates earn 100% more than the uneducated ((200-100)/100) = 1), so that college graduates earn 200% (300% – 100%) more than high school graduates, yet this is precisely what Mr. Humphrey’s technique does. He computes a percentage premium of college graduates over the base category, and then subtracts a percentage premium of high school graduates over the same base category.
      References:

      Gigerenzer, Gerd. (2002). Calculated Risks. New York: Simon & Schuster.

      Humphreys, John (2015). “Education Premiums in Cambodia: Dummy Variables Revisited and Recent Data,” Econ Journal Watch, 12 (3), pp. 339-45.

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 Sep 2015 by Ronald Michener
    • Last comment 30 Oct 2015 by Ronald Michener
  17. Ideology Über Alles? Economics Bloggers on Uber, Lyft, and Other Transportation Network Companies

    • I am and always have been surprised by the “cartel” view of taxis. No one calls the Maine lobster industry a cartel. Yet surely and appropriately it is. The lobster fishery is a common access resource. So, too, are the streets of a city. Part of the income enjoyed by lobster fishermen is a scarcity rent. So, too, is the price of a taxi and a taxi-cab medallion. Cities for many, obvious political-economy reasons are awful at managing common access to the streets. Nonetheless, the social value of Uber is not to lower the price of a taxi, which should be even higher in some cases, but to offer the consumer a more technologically efficient way of delivering the scare good

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 30 Sep 2015 by Michael Maloney
    • Last comment 24 Oct 2015 by Carl Edman
  18. Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology

    • Sean T. Stevens, in preparing a blog post for Heterodox Academy about the Langbert, Quain, and Klein article in EJW, scrutinized the article and caught a problem, and then kindly sent us a query about it.

      Sean noticed that in footnote 5 (p. 424) we list University of Florida and University of Miami as among those universities that, though ranked high enough by U.S. News to be included in our investigation, were not included because they sit in states not covered by Aristotle (the database used for the study).

      But Sean noticed that in footnote 4 (p. 423), listing the states not included in Aristotle, Florida is not listed. In fact, Florida is covered by Aristotle. In fact, those two Florida universities should have been included in our investigation.

      To rectify the problem, we need to investigate the two universities that have been mistakenly left out of our analysis, which covered 40 universities. Although our subscription to Aristotle had expired, Aristotle has generously restored to us temporary access, to rectify the problem. We are proceeding now and will report back on the findings; look for a notice here at EJW News.

      We are grateful to Sean for catching our error and bringing it to our attention!

    • 3 comments
    • First comment 02 Oct 2016 by John Quiggin
    • Last comment 07 Oct 2016 by AlanTan
  19. The Social Science Citation Index: A Black Box—with an Ideological Bias?

    • Hoover Institution publication Policy Review just printed its last issue this month (2/2013). That’s one less conservative SSCI journal cited in the Klein and Chiang article. Will any of the remaining conservative academic journals (such as ANAMNESIS, Academic Questions, First Things or Modern Age) ever obtain SSCI?

    • 2 comments
    • First comment 01 Nov 2011 by Alex Littlefield
    • Last comment 11 Feb 2013 by Alex Littlefield
  20. Adam Smith and Conservative Economics

    • I’m struck by a sense of deja vu in the treatment of Adam Smith by political philosophers after his death – indeed, it is much the same treatment a consistent modern friend of liberty might expect from orthodox conservatism and progressivism. The right wing of US politics invokes Smith and other classical liberal economists to defend private property and attack the idea of government intervention in the economy on behalf of the poor, but the cannier among them (such as Burke, among the early 18th-century crop of conservatives) know that true friends of individual liberty are no true friends of their favorite projects – wars and mass expenditures in the name of national greatness and tradition.

      As Rothschild’s article documents, Smith considered government interference in markets ‘a combination of the rich to oppress the poor,’ far from Burke’s conception of it as the agent of the deity on Earth. Of course, when Smith refers to ‘the rich,’ he usually seems to have in mind not capitalists involved in production in a free market but aristocrats wealthy from hereditary privilege and merchants wealthy from government-granted privilege. Smith takes the elites to task, though, not for simply having accumulated large amounts of wealth, or benefiting from a naturally unjust system of property, but for their lack of classical virtues. Smith saw the profligate, frivolous, aristocratic elite that used their influence to tip regulation in their favor as not measuring up to the humble masses engaged in honest toil in many virtues (his primary system of virtues in TMS emphasized prudence, temperance, courage, justice, and love). While falling short in most virtues is blameworthy yet not worthy of punishment, violating commutative justice was definitely considered by Smith as worthy of punishment, and he regrets that any aristocrat should be so powerful and wealthy as to be above the law in TMS.

      Smith should not be read as advocating liberty as simply an instrument to prosperity, to be easily abandoned in such cases in which we believe we can achieve greater prosperity with a clever regulation. Not only is liberty an intrinsic good, for those who have it and for their society, but it positively encourages virtue in general as much as it promotes prosperity. This is why we would never see the shade of Smith siding with the French revolutionaries or the radical left, who want to abrogate liberty and commutative justice in pursuit of a new system of property and a society subordinated to the will of the state. Smith may have had great sympathy for the poor, but it didn’t extend to his advocating the expropriation of the wealthy. Indeed, this might explain why Smith became somehow painted as an arch-conservative apologist for the wealthy despite what he actually wrote: while in Smith’s philosophy, some wars are justified, many customary, traditional and religious rules are laudable, and it makes sense to feel some measure of pride in the greatness and good fortunes of one’s country, it is always contrary to all morality and propriety to rob one’s neighbor, no matter his wealth and no matter your need. Smith can rail against utopian schemers with righteous indignation but would never do the same against God, king and country. Sometimes the distinction between a classical liberal and a conservative appears very fine, and even adherents of either philosophy may confuse or conflate the two, hence the conservative advantage in the race to claim Smith.

      It’s sobering to think that the controversy over Smith’s allegiances has been waged without interruption for over two hundred years and counting, now, and in many respects, the arguments have not much changed. Considering the obfuscation and self-censorship Smith had to practice in his writings and the incentives for political groups to claim him as one of their own, I would not be surprised if we all fought over Smith for another two centuries.

    • 2 comments
    • First comment 07 Oct 2010 by Steve Kunath
    • Last comment 19 Oct 2010 by Brian Bedient

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